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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

FIRST HALF OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY   345

all serious effort. " Interest means self-activity/' " In interest
the thing perceived has a special attraction for the mind and stands
out among the other presentations by reason of a certain causal
power :" that is, it is able to compel attention. Interest, then, is
the mark of self-activity, of personally acquired experience. It
is the special state of mind which accompanies attention to any
particular set of facts. To attend, to be interested, to be self-
active, these are all expressions for the same fact. Following on
this, when Herbart comes to ask what determines interest in
educational work, he finds the answer by changing the question
and asking what it is that makes one attend to anything. Here
he finds it necessary to distinguish two kinds of attention. The
one is the primitive or original attention, which though the less
important for the teacher is that on which the elaborate mental
processes of adult life ultimately depend. It is exemplified in
the attention which young children pay to strong sense-impressions,
like bright colours or loud sounds. As a matter of fact, it is only
in early childhood that this kind of attention is of any particular
consequence : it was a mistake on Pestalozzi's part to lay too much
stress on it. The other form of attention—which Herbart calls
the apperceptive, or assimilating, attention—gradually displaces
it. The time comes when the number of possible objects of interest
increases beyond the possibility of one attending to them all, and
attention is reserved for those that there is some reason for
attending to. A noise, for example, is allowed to pass unheeded
unless it is all the more startling, and even then it only retains the
attention if a place can be found for it among our experiences,
and it is capable of being explained in terms of our past know-
ledge. After early childhood, therefore, the attention requisite
for learning depends entirely on the apperception or mental
appropriation by which a new experience gets character from
previous experiences to which it is related. In that sense all
learning is simply apperception.

It is well to keep in mind that mental intensity (or interest)
is not in itself desirable. There can be no real education with-
out interest, but an excessive interest in any one subject or line
of action may defeat the educator's aim as much as the entire
lack of interests* A mind concentrated on a single interest is a
one-sided mind; and the Idea of Perfection condemns one-
sidedness. The statement that the immediate aim of education